March 12, 2019
By David Odineal
The church must rethink it’s approach to singleness.
In Jesus’ estimation, singleness is such an asset in the service of God, that some Christians will embrace singleness for a season or for life.
In Matthew 19 10:12, Jesus speaks of people for “it is better not to marry.” Obviously some of the cultural context is different, but He clearly sees value in singleness–not just people who are waiting to be married.
There seems to be precious few who willingly sacrifice the appeal of marriage and family for the sake of serving Christ. But why is this a concern for the Church? And why should married people care?
SINGLENESS IN THE CHURCH
Paul encourages singles to remain unmarried (1 Corinthians 7:6-9), and elaborates on the benefits of singleness (1 Corinthians 7:32-34). Paul writes this letter in the midst of persecution, when marrying multiplies anxiety. The married person doesn’t just worry about his own life and property, but also about his family. But Paul’s reasoning applies even when persecution does not complicate matters. The married person must always consider his or her spouse before making decisions, but singleness gives the Christian a greater degree of freedom to serve Christ.
And a lifetime of singleness is not a sentence to lifelong loneliness. In Mark 10:29-30, Jesus promises us something greater than spouses to fill our loneliness; He promises a family within the Church.
It’s a family of brothers, sisters, mothers and children that transcends marriage and blood relationships, with God as Father. If we choose singleness for the sake of following Christ more effectively, we are assured a family within the Church.
Singles are not alone, and singles are not condemned to loneliness. This vision requires the participation of both single and married Christians in the Church.
Culturally, Christian singles are inexplicable. In a Western society that idolizes sex and romance, a Christian who chooses singleness—not because they fail at dating, but because they desire their personal calling more than sex, romance or companionship—has done something entirely foreign. Nonbelievers will ask about it endlessly, and try to understand what could possibly be better than relationships and sex. My singleness has often allowed me to share the Gospel with nonbelievers who couldn’t understand my way of life. Perhaps more than anyone else, joyful singles stand out from the culture and hold up Christ as surpassingly desirable.
A DIVIDE WITHIN THE CHURCH
God constructs His Church with purpose. He ordains diversity in His Body, and calls some to singleness and others to marriage. So how do we live together, support each other and encourage one another toward serving Christ?
First, we recognize that not all Christians are called to marry. We support our brothers and sisters in Christ, even when our society calls them foolish. We must not assume that all singles are looking for marriage, or that our single friends wish to be set up.
Second, we become family to the members of the Church, whether single, divorced, widowed, orphaned, ostracized or otherwise. Jesus promises brothers, sisters, mothers and children to believers who have sacrificed for him (Mark 10:29-30). As members of the body of Christ, we are the fulfillment of that promise. Fulfilling Romans 12:13, we bless our brothers and sisters by inviting them into our homes, into our lives and into our families.
Just as the singles in the Church can serve the Body in unique ways, married members have the unique ability to invite singles into their lives and to be family to them.
By supporting our brothers and sisters, we exhibit Christ’s law of love to the world (Galatians 6:2).
Singles, seek out God’s will for your life. If that means marriage, pursue it for the glory of God. If it means singleness for a season or for life, embrace it.
Always desire Christ more than romance, and prove it by your lifestyle. Use your independence to live dangerously—even recklessly—for the Gospel. But singleness is not asceticism. Find family, accountability and support among the Body of Christ.
Married Christians, use your marriage and family to glorify God. Seek opportunities to support your brothers and sisters in Christ. Invite single Christians into your homes to participate in your families.
Originally published on RELEVANT Magazine.
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